At this point in the season, the Arizona soccer team has two options: unite as team through a difficult stretch or succumb to adversity.
As the Wildcats (3-6-1) take on Loyola Marymount tonight at Mulcahy Stadium, they will be implementing reserve players into much larger roles to fill the void that has been left by the injuries to forward Renae Cuellar and goalkeeper Devon Wharf.
Tonight's game may very well be the most challenging game in the Wildcats' season thus far, and that has nothing to do with the opponent.
""The real challenge for us is to keep putting our time and energy on things that we can control,"" said Arizona head coach Dan Tobias. ""The players that will get an opportunity to play have taken advantage of their opportunities. They've done well in practice so they'll be ready to play (today).""
The Lions come into Tucson with a solid 7-3-1 record and have shutout their opponents in all seven of their wins. With the Lions obviously being a strong defensive team, this may present a huge problem for the Wildcats, who will be missing their leading goal scorer and have been struggling to put the ball in the net all season.
The Wildcats will have to rally behind backup goalkeeper Ashley Jett, who will make the first start of her college career. The sophomore has 51 minutes of college experience and will have to take on a leadership role that accompanies the goalkeeper position.
""I hope to step in right where Devon left off, everyone practices with me and her so I hope that everyone will respond the same way to me,"" Jett said. ""I'm confident they will.""
With Jett seeing her first action of the year, she fully expects to be tested by the Lions because they know she's the back up.
""They'll definitely notice that I'm not the starting goalkeeper and try to exploit that, but I think our defense will respond very well,"" she said.
This will be the Wildcats' last non-conference game before they start their Pacific 10 Conference schedule on the road next weekend at UCLA. A win tonight is essential to build momentum for a brutal second half schedule, and in order for Arizona to come out victorious, it may come down to players that haven't been a factor this year.
""We have plenty of players that can produce,"" Tobias said. ""It's going to come down to how hungry those guys are, but I'm confident … those guys can get it done.""